Be Productive

7 Ways To Be Productive When There’s Nothing To Do


No matter how busy you are normally in the office, there are always those days where you have nothing to do. You’ve filed all the papers, written all the reports, and even answered all your e-mails.

So, it seems like you don’t have anything left on your plate. So, how are you supposed to be productive?

Hint: There’s ALWAYS something to do.

When you’re at a loss for work, go through this checklist:

1. Update The Company’s Social Media

Let’s be realistic: you’re already on Facebook or Twitter during the day, so why not be productive while doing it? If you have nothing pressing to get done, update your company’s social networks. Try posting an article, a company update, or an upcoming event on the company’s fan page.

2. Read Up On Your Industry

It’s always a good idea to stay “in the know,” so read up on your industry. If anything, you’ll have good conversation material for clients, co-workers, and your boss. And who knows, some information could inspire you to create a new strategy for the company (can you say promotion?).

3. Brainstorm With Co-Workers

Got brain freeze or writer’s block? Talk your project over with your co-workers and brainstorm alternative ideas. This will help you develop your team building skills. Plus, your boss will see how much initiative you’re taking. Win-win.

4. Update Your Calendar

Got work events or meetings coming up? Don’t forget! Go over your calendar and double check times and places. If needed, e-mail or call and confirm appointments.

5. Organize Your Desktop

Did you know that clutter increases stress levels? You don’t need anymore stress than you already have, so tidy up your desktop and drawers. Not only will you feel better, but you will also be able to find everything you need quickly so you can get your work done faster!

6. Create Your Own Project

If you really want to impress the boss, it might be time to take your work to the next level by starting your own project. Evaluate problems, do research, and brainstorm with co-workers if needed. Then, schedule a meeting with your boss to present your ideas.

7. Ask The Boss

If you find yourself at the end of this checklist without anything to do, just ask your boss. No doubt they will have some kind of task or project for you to work on.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Ariella Coombs

Ariella is the Content Manager for CAREEREALISM. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism. Follow her @AriellaCoombs or find her on Google+.


  1. This is not real advice. This is an overly simplistic list and appears to reflect the personal opinions of the writter, rather than those of any manager….ever. I would not recommend anyone follow this advice…unless they want to be the first person laid off in a budget pinch.

    This article was likely written while the witter did not have enough to do at work. So after tweeting something, browsing google and chatting down the hall with someone this article was written as completion of #6. If the content manager can not come up with better content to write about, I am a bit concerned for the long term direction of this website. The site has a good premise overall, some good articles, this one is pretty sub par.

  2. Bernadette Conley

    One additional specific project recommendation is to create a training manual for how to do your job. (I usually start creating this on my first day in a new position to help me remember all the new steps.) When you are promoted the next person in your role will be able to take on some of the responsibilities without as much chaos. It also looks good on your resume.

    • I agree, this also allows you the maintain focus on learning everything in the role and then preparing to transition it to someone else when you are ready to move on. Having this set up already frees you to move out of the role much sooner and you may get more support from your manager to move internally when they realize your position will be well covered.

  3. Bernadette Conley

    I ask co-workers if they need help with their projects before asking my boss for ideas.

    I also keep a separate unofficial To Do List (currently 3 typed pages) full of inspirations, brainstorms, and project ideas to address when time becomes available. I tend to add to it after reading research or business articles. The most critical thing to keep in mind is the overall mission of the company.

    Some of my best work has been done during work downtime or non-work hours:
    – I combined the mailing lists from separate departments and events into a single detail-oriented marketing list for soliciting donations and promoting future events
    – I updated the resource guide the company I was temping for provided to clients (less than a year later I was asked to apply for a permanent position)
    – I designed a more attractive and informative flyer to provide for prospective candidates
    – I recreated legal documents on the computer to make future filing faster

  4. The theoretical person in this post is headin’ for a firin’. I would be trying to ingratiate myself into some meaningful projects that are going on in the company . . . dusting off my resume . . . networking like crazy . . . thinking about anything I could do to increase revenue and activity for my department/company . . . oh, and did I mention dusting off my resume?

  5. On item 1, that only works if you’re in charge of the company’s social media. 2. This might help if your company is interested in your opinion and strategizing, but likely not. 3. This isn’t going to work if you’re the only one with nothing to do. 4. Calendar updates don’t hurt but really one should be doing this regularly anyways. 5. A clean desk will be a major red flag to a boss(es) to you have nothing to do. 6. You can’t create your own project if there’s nothing to bill to. 7. This should be the first thing you do.

  6. I would think you could find something to do that is productive to the company and to yourself. There are always online journals and articles to read, classes and seminars to participate in, how to’s to read, etc. what better time to advance your Excel skills, or to read material in an area of weakness. Files can always be cleaned up, computer files can be sorted, organized and filed, etc. Review reports, etc. if you find you regularly have time, keep a list of things you want to go back and review or look up during the busy times. We all have thoughts and ideas at times when we are busy that we can’t get to right now. There is always something to do.

  7. I am at a job that my work load is completed the first two weeks of the month. The next two weeks, I have absolutely nothing that comes my way that takes more than five minutes. I have asked for more work month after month, and I only receive empty promises. So, I sit here for eight hours day after day, trying to think of something to do.

  8. Dr. Marc Tinsley - The People Repairman

    If you are lucky enough to have nothing to do at work that’s a good time to take a break.

    When I speak to businesses about increasing energy and maximizing performance, I often hear that people have too much to do. So if you don’t have anything to do, now is the time.

    Taking a break is one of the most fundamental, inexpensive, popular, and effective things that will improve the wellness of your staff, energize your office, and increase productivity. Make sure that their your break that meets your nutritional, physical, social, cognitive, spiritual, and emotional needs as much as possible.

  9. This is funny stuff. It’s not anything that is productive. I see people do it to look busy of of fear they may get some real work, but if I, a fellow co-worker asks them for help, the only reply I ever get is “that’s not my job.”

  10. “If you find yourself at the end of this checklist without anything to do, just ask your boss.”

    Are you sure about this one?

    I would have the feeling that the boss would think you’re a moron. Not because you lack work, but because you lack the awareness and vision to figure out what to do.

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